New Guitar but can it be Eco Friendly?

I’ve decided, I am going to buy a new guitar, I’m almost certain that I want an Alhambra Classical (probably a 7P) but I’m sure I’ll have to spend alhambra guitara bit more time deciding on the right model. After all, the fun of spending all that money in in the trying out of different models.

But then I got to thinking about the wood which is used for making guitars and the impact it is having. Specifically the hardwoods such as Mahogany and Ebony which are used to make the neck. They are used specifically because it provides better sound as the notes vibrate up the strings and neck.

So I got to looking at some of the endangered species of wood. Particularly Mahogany as I thought it was endangered. Hardwoods take much longer to grow and are often taken from forests, as opposed to timbers like Cedar and spruce which are usually farmed.

I looked into where else these woods are used, one major use for them is

Image courtesy of Chiselpig

in boats, particularly the older type you see on rivers. (see picture) where I assume that traditional materials are often used, especially when they are renovated.  Their use must involve literally tonnes of timber in a single boat, whereas a guitar has very little in each one. Although on the flip side of that, how many of these boats are out there compared to the number of guitars which must be made every year.

So I got to doing a bit of research. It turns out that the term Mahogany actually refers to quite a few different species of tree.  Some aren’t even Mahogany at all, the rainforest relief website has a load opf information on what should and shouldn’t be used. So now I just need to go back to the manufacturer to find out exactly what they do use.

Who’d have thought buying a new guitar would become such a deep dive into the rights and wrongs of wood! Oh well, I’m feeling more enlightened now 🙂

The Vinyl Revival

Since the heady days of the 90’s rave phenominon and the emergence of entierly electronic music in the 80’s, spearheaded by the likes of Kraftwerk and the Shamen, live music has been making something of a comeback in recent years. Even elctronic artists who predominantly use synth’s and samples, tend to have live musicians when they play a gig these days, just take a look at some of the big live acts such as Lady Ga Ga for prime examples of this.

I suspect the recent growth of festivals has also increased the number of people going to live gigs, until around ten years ago we has glastonbury and reading, then a few more emerged like the download and readings partner festival at leeds, then all of a suddn the festival scene exploded and they were popping up like mushrooms all over the UK.

Likewise vinyl records seem to be making a huge comeback of late, the BBC reported that more vinyl has beeen sold this year than since 1996! That may not sound very impressive but when you consider that numbers have steadily declined over almost 20 years, the sudden increase to figures of almost 20 years ago is quite significant. I wrote about how record sales ad been decreasing just a couple of years ago.

The value of new Vinyl music sales dropped to an all time low of £3m in recent years, however tthis year it’s topped £20m, so the growth is significant.

There are said to be two distinct groups who buy vinyl these days, the older people who grew up with it and like to see their collection steadily grow from year to year, this can be demonstrated by the fact that the fastest selling album over this period has been Pink Floyd’s new album, The Endless River, these people no doubt live in bigger houses too to accomodate the collections. The other being the younger people who like them in a retro’ kind of way.

Personally I think the look of a vinyl sleeve is much better than a CD or image on the computer screen, I always considered an album cover to be an art form, look at old Iron Maiden sleves as a good example, or Joy Division for the more arty, although less artistic examples. There is nothing like rifling through records in a shop too, something the younger generation have probably missed completely as I expect the majority of them have only ever downloaded music.

So although I very much doubt that Vinyl record sales will ever increase to the point where they beat downloads, let’s hope this trend towards it continues.

A Summer Washout?

This year is looking awful for the festival scene, the season is now underway and it’s still raining, windy and cold, looking at the long term weather forecast it’s due to continue well into July too.

I bet Michael Eavis is pleased that they gave Glastonbury festival a break this year, as it would have been around this time (end of June) and the ground is absolutely waterlogged, in fact despite the hosepipe bans which were in force earlier in the year, we now have quite a lot of localised flooding again.

There was a small festival in Manton, a small village in Wiltshire, which I was planning to go to last weekend, but due to the rain I didn’t bother to go, it was absolutely lashing down that evening.

All in all, if the weather doesn’t do something positive in the near future, more events will be cancelled and probably impact on ticket sales for next year too.

Black Sabbath to Tour Again

Those ageing rockers Black Sabbath, are once again getting ready to hit the road for a 2012 tour. This is the second time the band has reformed for a tour, however this time they are writing some new material and releasing an album to go along with the tour.

The complete original line-up will be playing along with Ozzy Ozbourne singing, although quite how he will manage that remains to be seen, after all I’ve watched him on TV and he can barely even string a coherent sentence together these days, so it should be interesting!
Anyway, it’s rumoured that the concert tickets will go on sale early in 2012, so if you would like to see the old rockers belting out their new album, and I’m sure a good number of their old hits too, get yourself a ticket and get that head banging again.

The Top 5 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

“Top however-many greatest” lists are never really conclusive, and generally we only put them together to spark a debate of some sort.  This is never more apparent than when you see somebody looking through a list of the top 5, 10, 50, or even 100 greatest guitar players of all time, indignant that their own top choice was omitted in favour of someone they really don’t care for.  What makes a guitarist a legend is so much more than technical virtuosity and style, and so one man’s hero is another man’s overrated show off.

To keep the fires of one of the greatest arguments in rock fanned, here is our top five list of the world’s greatest guitar heroes:

1. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix is the guitar hero’s guitar hero.  There is no living person on this list who doesn’t speak in awe and admiration of Hendrix, so if Clapton is a “God”, then this guy was something even more amazing.  Unmatched in his technical skills, and with a stage presence that those who were lucky enough to see him can never forget, Hendrix also had incredible vision and soul.  Hendrix tragically died young, becoming one of the original members of the now infamous “Forever 27 Club” (the list of musical legends who died at the age of 27, recently added to by the death of Amy Winehouse), but not without achieving the accolade of being number one in just about everybody’s list.

2. Slash

Not to everybody’s mind the very greatest technical player, but one of the most popular and influential guitarists the rock world has ever known.  Slash reinvented the guitar hero image with his attitude and style, and despite his heavy sound, his collaborations with people like Michael Jackson introduced a whole new type of music fan to the sense of awe experienced when hearing a truly brilliant guitar solo.

3. Eric Clapton

Likened to a “God” at the age of 20 with only five years of guitar playing under his belt, Clapton is the essence of natural talent.  Putting a relevant spin onto the deep blues sounds he so loves has always come far more naturally to Clapton that all the others who have tried it, and despite the speed and excellence of his solos, Clapton doesn’t feel like he’s playing for his ego.  One of the true greats, and one of the most credible men to pick up a guitar.

4. Carlos Santana

With a style that manages to be both traditional and unique at the same time, Santana’s Latin infused sounds gave heavy rock guitar a new and beautiful twist.  Collaborating with incredibly diverse people without ever looking like he was selling out, Santana is a truly influential and innovative guitar legend.

5. Jimmy Page

Led Zeppelin’s guitar superstar ticks every box on the “guitar hero” checklist.  Classic solo every kid wants to play?  Check.  Credibility among his peers?  Check.  Electric stage presence?  Check.  Uncommonly memorable hair?  You bet.  Some say his own genius often gets under appreciated in lists like these purely because Led Zeppelin as a unit were so incredibly tight that their sound never entirely relied just on Page’s incredible guitar skills, but watch or listen to any of his solos and you’ll be hard pressed not to agree that he deserves his place among the all time greatest.

Think you are the next big guitar player? In a fantastic live band? Then leave a comment and perhaps you will be listed when this list is done again in a few years time.

Record Sales and Gigs for Bands

So in these times of recession, the whole music industry still seems to be thriving, despite all the bands such as U2 complaining about people downloading their songs on the internet for free, they still seem to have a few quid in the bank. Then you only have to take a look at the outdoor pop festivals this year which appear to all be selling out to see that people are certainly more than happy to pay money for their favorite groups, just perhaps not in the traditional way from years gone by. It used to be that if you liked a band they would release 2 or 3 singles, then an album with a whole bunch of new tracks on it, if they were smart they would make the b sides different from the album tracks, so all the diehard fans would buy both singles and albums, then you might buy a t-shirt off the market with their name on and dream about the day when you might get a chance to see them live.

It seems that these days it’s all the other way around, the band brings out a single, some people buy it, some download it, but it still makes it into the charts, then the album (or LP if you are as old as me) follows and again a lot of people download it, but some are still paying. However the bands, at least, appear to play more frequent and longer tours these days, incorporating many countries which would have been overlooked in the past. In addition these gigs are likely to have impressive sound systems, lighting rigs and stage sets incorporating risers and pyrotechnics, this draws the crowds and the groups (or their management) can charge much more for the tickets and push the merchandise too.

This approach to a gig is a far cry from the gigs of the 60’s when the screaming from the girls in the crowd would drown out the under-powered PA, whilst the band stood under a couple of PAR cans, which may have flickered very slightly if they were really going for it.

Catch 22 wedding and party band
Image courtesy of Catch 22

In my belief, yes bands may have to work harder these days, but the fans get a lot more for the money they pay, and the big bands still make plenty of money from their gigs.

Party bands have to work even harder, those smaller bands who make a living out of playing mostly covers, to be in a party band you still need to practice and play the gigs, but also move your own kit and set up the PA and Lights and then take it all down again at the end of the concert.

Support your local party band, they really do work hard and can be as enjoyable to watch as the big bands at a fraction of the cost.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin died in October 1970 so I was only a few months old at the time, so there is no way I could remember her music, my parents didn’t listen to particularly rocky music or the blues, so I can’t have heard her from them either. However, by the time I was 15 I was listening to her music, and 25 years later I still do. Possibly a glowing reference for her as a singer and the musicians she worked with.

Janis grew up in Port Arthur a southern town in the USA and had a healthy interest in music and the arts from an early age.  She toured all the local small venues of the time both singing and watching other performers play until she settled in as a student at Austin Texas.  This however, was to be short lived as her experimentation with drugs got out of hand and sent her back home to take a view of where her life was going.

Then Chet helms, an old friend who had settled in San Fransisco contacted her to audition with an unknown band, she got the gig and was soon playing with Big Brother and the Holding Company. from here her career really began to take off………..

Part 2 to follow

About this musical blog

Just to be clear, when I referred to this as a musical blog, I don’t mean in the same way as a musical box, as in it belts out a tune every time you open it up, I just mean that it’s generally about music. Although that’s not to say that at some point in the future it wont. (just thought I’d better get that little disclaimer in there right from the outset)

Anyway, the idea is to write about anything which interests me about music, it could be a write up about a band, new or old, or a news story which I found interesting and have some kind of comment to make about it, or I may even tell you about the new guitar I am planning to buy and my process of elimination to decide which one to get eventually, just for the record the Alhambra 7P is looking like the favorite at the moment.

I may also try some little biographies about a few of my favorite singers, they could be anything from PJ Harvey to Janis Joplin or Christina Aguelera, so please don’t expect this to stay to one musical genre, because it wont.

Just getting started for now

Hello, if you found this post you are either reading this at some point in the future or somehow just found my brand new blog.  Anyway there is nothing here of interest, so move along now, I’m just writing a first post to make sure it’s all working. You never know I may even try adding a picture to the next one.